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Glanzberg, Norbert

Norbert Glanzberg was born in 1910 in Rohatyn in Galicia, at that time a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the family moved away from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy to Wuerzburg in Germany, although still at school age, he was admitted to the Bavarian State Conservatory, where he studied piano, conducting and musical composition.

In 1928 Glanzberg became the junior conductor who had permission to conduct at the Wuerzburg City Theatre while still learning under a master. Further milestones were Aachen and finally Berlin, where he had his first success as a film composer in the legendary UFA, and, among others, conducted "Csárdásfuerstin" by Emmerich Kálmán in the concert halls of Berlin’s Friedrichstraße. In 1931 he composed the music for the Billy Wilder film "The Wrong Husband"(German: Der falsche Ehemann), among others the song "You’ve got me" (German: Hasch mich), a very successful song sung by the Comedian Harmonists.
With racial persecution by the National Socialists on the rise, from 1933 onwards, Glanzberg, as a Jew, had no longer any perspectives in life or possibilities for earning a livelihood in Germany. In 1934 he emigrated to France.

Initially Glanzberg could obtain no working permit in France. This meant that at the beginning, he had to struggle to get by as a street musician. Later he occasionally had the opportunity to conduct operas in various cities. In 1938 he came into contact with well-known French female chanson singers for whom he composed the chansons, which were an immediate success. With the occupation of France during Hitler’s Germany, Glanzberg was threatened from 1940 onwards by deportation. Once more without means - the German troops had confiscated the money of Jewish composers - Edith Piaf offered him support, engaged him as a pianist, and finally found him a hiding-place. Glanzberg, however, was denounced and imprisoned by the French militia. The prison had ties to the German organisation "Todt", which selected Jews for deportation. Glanzberg’s name was already on the list. He was ultimately saved by a French prison warder, seconded by a group of influential artists. Glanzberg was able to flee, and at last managed to go into hiding. After the war, Glanzberg chose Paris as his new place of permanent residence.

After 1945, Glanzberg composed international hits for stars such as Yves Montand, Petula Clark, Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf – among these the chansons "Les grands boulevards", "Mon manège à moi" ("Tu me fais tourner la tête") and "Padam...Padam". He also achieved international fame as a film composer, for instance as one of the three scorewriters of the Oscar-winning film "Mon oncle" (Jacques Tati).

 In the seclusion of old age, Glanzberg is revisited once again by the traumatic memories of the Nazi horrors, which now became more than ever a tortuous psychological burden. By the revitalisation of the late Romantic-era classical music which he studied at the Wuerzburg Conservatory, he succeeded to some degree in resolving his personal trauma. Norbert Glanzberg died in February 2001 in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris.

 

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